Kevin looked out his living room window and could see the red and blue lights flashing a few houses down. He couldn’t see what was actually happening from this angle. He had heard the sirens coming down the street, as they progressively got louder until they were clearly right outside his house. Then the clamor of people scurrying, presumably paramedics or police officers running from their cars to whatever had happened.
From the comfort of his mid-century inspired living room, with his geometrically patterned rug, vintage coffee table, and appropriately placed houseplants, Kevin could only imagine what was going on out there.
Sam lived alone, as did Kevin, and was about the same age as Kevin, in his mid 30s. He would also often have friends over that looked more than a little questionable, who would sit in their front deck smoking cigarettes and drinking beers late into the night. Kevin really didn’t have many friends over. Kevin knew that Sam struggled with pain pills and thought about Sam overdosing while alone in that house, laying on the dirty tile of that old kitchen he had been meaning to remodel. But no, that wouldn’t make any sense. Who would have called 911 if Sam was alone?
His mind then moved on to the next set of neighbors, the elderly couple who had recently retired from their jobs and spent the majority of their time cleaning out their garage while their grandkids ran around in their backyard. Kevin had not really talked to them much in the couple of years he had lived in this neighborhood. He did get the sense these were good, salt of the earth people. They seemed to cause no trouble. He pictured one of them having a heart attack or a stroke, while the other dialed 911 in a panic, tears running down their cheeks, telling the fallen partner to hold on, that help was coming. Or maybe one of them had fallen down the stairs in the dark, tripping on a rug as they went down to get a drink of water, the loud thud of their fall waking up the other person. All of that was possible.
Kevin couldn’t stand it any longer though. The stillness inside his home compared to the clamor of the street was too much to bear. He had to know what was going on outside.
There were two ambulances, three police cars, and one fire truck outside the old couples’ house. The policemen and paramedics ran back and forth between their cars and the house, with small headlamps around their foreheads, making it look as if fireflies were dancing on the street.
Kevin weaved through the fireflies unnoticed as they went about their tasks shouting orders at one another. He noticed someone being carried out on a stretcher, though from where he was standing he could not tell if it was the old man or woman. The lights were all on inside the house, and he thought he saw some smoke or a shimmering cloud coming out from a second story window, but could not see any other signs of life coming from inside.
When Kevin was asked later why he decided to go inside, when clearly there were plenty of trained personnel there, he couldn’t give a clear answer, other than to say that the cloud did not seem right.
He glided in through the front door without being noticed. Kevin had always been told he had a face that everyone recognized as friendly and neutral, like that guy from high school that was always in a good mood and everyone liked, no matter whether they were theatre kids, football players, or mathletes. This was perhaps why no one noticed or was threatened by his presence that night.
“Where do you think his wife is?” one of them asked.
“She has to be here somewhere. Dispatch said the call was from a woman who was home with the guy,” another one responded as he opened a closet door and peeked inside with a flashlight.
“The call was only about 20 minutes ago, and there are two cars in the driveway, so I don’t think she could have gone far,” said a third, hand on his hips, looking around the room confused.
Neither of them seemed to notice Kevin standing by the doorway, at the foot of the stairs, or as he started to go up the stairs to the second floor.
“And what was it the woman told dispatch again?” asked the guy as he continued to search the closet.
“That her husband had seen something strange and they were scared,” said another man coming out of the kitchen. “She said she was worried her husband was having a heart attack, which he clearly did.” The man took a pause and a deep breath. “No sign of her in the kitchen or the den back there, by the way. Have you guys finished checking the rest of this floor?”
Kevin did not hear any more of the conversation, as he had made it to the second floor. He walked down the hallway towards the bedroom where he thought he had seen the cloud. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two more emergency personnel in a bedroom, but did not register what they were talking about. Kevin was suddenly in a trance, his only thought was reaching the room at the end of the hall.
It had a translucent property, causing a ray of light to shine on Kevin’s torso as he stood at the doorway. As he stared into the cloud, however, he realized what he was seeing was not the other side of the room, but rather an open space overlooking a green space of large trees. He thought he saw a bird fly by but shook his head to blow away that irrational thought. He made a 180 degree walk around the cloud and was surprised that he could not see the cloud from the opposite angle. From that side, it was just a normal office space of a 65 year-old man, with a neatly organized wooden rolltop desk, office chair, and pictures of families strewn about the walls and shelves. He walked back around to the front of the cloud, and again saw the trees, as if he was standing about 10 or 20 feet in the air. He peered down towards the ground and saw an older woman walking around with what he considered a confused look on her face.
Kevin was suddenly pulled back by the voice of a man approaching down the hallway. Steps were coming quickly and loudly down the hallway. He had the realization that it would not look good if he was caught standing in the bedroom of a man who had recently had a mysterious heart attack, so he did the only thing he could do. He went into the cloud, feeling his body fall and hit the ground.
They were hard to understand as they were all speaking to him simultaneously, but from their expressions he could tell they were not happy with him. Suddenly he is yanked up by one of the people and told to put his hands behind his back, and then he feels cold metal against his wrists.
“What is this?”, asked Kevin, still confused as to what was happening or where he was.
“We’re bringing you in for questioning surrounding the disappearance of Mrs. Janelle Clarkson,” answered one of the voices.
“I’m sorry, who?” stammered Kevin, as he got his bearings and started to recognize the home office he was in before passing through the cloud. “What do you think I did?”
“Mrs. Clarkson, the woman who lives in this house whose purse you were holding while you were passed out on the floor,” said the man as he led Kevin through the hallway and down the stairs.
“What purse? I don’t know any Mrs. Clarkson,” said Kevin, as his heart pounded harder and faster, and his vision started to tunnel. “I’m just their neighbor. I was worried about all the sirens outside,” he said with panic in his voice.
He looked out the window from the back of the car towards the house. The sky was turning a light pink and a jogger passed by without giving the scene much thought. The ambulances and fire truck were gone, and only one other police car remained. As the car started and the police drove him away, Kevin stretched his neck out looking towards the second story window, which showed no signs of anything abnormal.
It was much later that day, after having sat at the police station for several hours explaining how he ended up inside the Clarkson’s home and on the floor of the home office, and after having been moved to a holding cell, that Kevin thought there was a good chance he had gone crazy. Maybe he really had done something to Mrs. Clarkson? No, he thought, as he shook that thought away. He knew what he had seen. He had seen that cloud with some sort of portal, and who he could only assume was Mrs. Clarkson wandering around that park. Where had that park been? He didn’t recognize it from the neighborhood.
As he laid on a hard cot in that jail cell, his eyes closing from lack of sleep, he saw something shimmer out of the corner of his eye. He bolted upright and saw the same shimmering cloud from earlier. He looked around and shouted for help, but no one answered. The police station was eerily quiet.
The opening was there again, looking out into the same park, but it was daylight this time. The same woman was also there, except this time she didn’t look confused, but rather serene as she sat under a tree, knees to her chest, taking a bite from an apple.
Kevin shouted at her and waved his hands to get her attention, and, for a second, the woman paused and looked around, only to continue eating her apple. Kevin had that same feeling from earlier, that if he didn’t go in through the portal, no good would come to him here, that there was nothing left for him here. The last thought Kevin had as he walked through the cloud was that he hoped someone would take his houseplants and give them a better home than he had been able to give.